January 28, 2020

Mint of Finland is right on the money

If you lined up all the coins in circulation made by Mint of Finland in 2010, the string of coins would reach half way around the world.
Mint of Finland

A strong legacy and future-proofing are different sides of the same coin for the Mint of Finland in a time of rapid change in payment methods.

In an industry that is little known but very much present in our lives, the Mint of Finland has grown into the strongest mint in the eurozone and is leading the way in figuring out what the future holds for cash payments and coins. It is a state-owned limited company with factories in Finland and Germany, as well as a joint venture in Spain, clients on four continents and an annual revenue of 72 million euros in 2018.

“We’re a bit of an anomaly in the business,” tells Henna Karjalainen, VP of communications at the Mint of Finland. “Most of the other actors in the industry are national agencies, which have huge domestic markets and hence a different modus operandi. They don’t have to export.”

That is not the case for Finland.

“We export over 90 per cent of our products and services,” she says. “Exports are our lifeline, in many ways like they are for Finland as a small open economy.”

The Vantaa factory is known in the business for its high-quality coin production.

Mint of Finland

The international operations began with export projects to Africa and Asia in 1993 and were kicked into high gear with the mint’s role in the introduction of the euro in 2002.

“The euro was a driver for our international efforts, bringing our expertise to the forefront of international attention.”

It is no surprise that the mint is looking abroad for new sources of income: according to the European Central Bank, there are currently 133 billion euro coins with a monetary value of 30 billion euros in global circulation.

So far, the company has been involved in making euro coins for Greece, Ireland, Slovenia and Estonia, to name a few. Some interesting markets have also opened up in Asia, South America and Africa.

Show me the money

The mint’s products include premium commemorative coins, blanks and coins, with the latter two filling the majority of the order books. The company’s two factories have a combined annual capacity of 15 kilotonnes of blanks and two billion ready-to-use coins, which is equivalent to six shipping containers daily year-round.

“For the average person, a coin might seem trivial, but what actually goes into making one is much more complex. Material analysis, design and security features are key ingredients in our manufacturing process to deliver long-lasting and secure products to our clients,” explains Karjalainen.

From strips of metal, the so-called coin blanks are made in a multiple-step process of which the end result is shipped to the client or to the factory in Vantaa, where the final and most important steps of tooling and minting are carried out to produce ready-to-use coins.

“We have the advantages of a small and big player in that we’re very agile but also able to deliver high-volume orders,” says Karjalainen.

No coin toss

Over the course of its 160-year history, the Mint of Finland has made coins for over 40 countries on four continents. Hence, the company’s legacy in services such as technical consultation and supply chain advice is tried and tested.

The mint is launching an app for coin collectors in 2020, adding the plus sides of digital into a very analogue hobby.

Mint of Finland

“Because we live on exports, we’re very good at it. The tendering processes are public and quite administrative-heavy. Because of our track record and references, we are often consulted on a number of procedural challenges from logistics to security features.”

Staying ahead of the game comes with its challenges and strict requirements – especially when your clientele is made up of ministries of finance, central banks and other mints.

“For central banks, the security of cash is a question of practicality but also of reputation, which is why the requirements for our manufacturing process and our products are very stringent.”

The mint has recently begun re-conceptualising its service offering and commercialising its catalogue to fit client needs in a more diverse way and to reinvent itself in the face of growing digital payment methods.

“We have to challenge the industry to stay relevant and punch above our weight. There are no illusions as to whether digitalisation and environmental challenges concern us – of course they do.”

According to Karjalainen, the key ingredients of the coin business are quality and security, which are ingrained into the mint’s processes through the right mix of knowhow and ambition. Underlying both, and a third key ingredient, is reliability.

“We understand reliability in a comprehensive way, it is a trusting relationship with our clients but also one between us and the world,” says Karjalainen.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

For the mint, trust begins in the company culture.

“We’ve been very busy with values and company culture work in the past few years,” says Karjalainen.

“Our personnel came together to ponder on our core values and principles recently. What came out as underlying values were pride in our work, mutual respect, collaboration and reliability.”

It is here where the enabling elements of trusting partnerships and client relationships are forged – on the fertile ground of internal dialogue, trust and respect. It is the legacy which the 160-year-old state-owned company can rely on in order to keep itself relevant and responsible in a bold new world.

The mint is future-proofing itself from the outside as well. Much of the future outlook is based on strategic scenario work on the future role of cash. Depending on the key driving forces of societal stability and instability, as well as fast and slow adoption technological innovations, cash may end up being anything between a safe haven for privacy in a fragmented architecture of payment methods and a diminishing legacy alternative in a world of cryptocurrencies.

“Regarding the future of payment methods, I think cash will have a role, since you’re beginning to see a sort of weariness of everything digital,” ponders Karjalainen. “Everything you do is documented in the digital realm and people have begun to speak up. Cash is a privacy enabler in this sense.”

The mint has no plans to stand idle and wait for the future, but rather will embrace the change with a clear vision.

“For us the core of our business is a balance between social responsibility and creating value,” she sums up.

If its track record is anything to go by, necessity may once again prove itself an advantage for the Mint of Finland.

Text: Samuli Ojala

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